Batting hero Sunil Gavaskar has been appointed the temporary head of the body that controls cricket in India amid an ongoing investigation into alleged spot-fixing during the popular and successful Indian Premier League.
India’s Supreme Court directed that Mr Gavaskar, a former captain and batting record-holder, should be installed as interim head of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and that the current head, N Srinivasan, should stand down.
The short-form competition has been the focus of allegations of illegal betting and spot-fixing that were first revealed last year. Among those accused of being involved are Mr Srinivasan’s son-in-law, and despite repeated demands that he stand down, the BCCI boss insisted there was no conflict of interest.
Earlier in the week, the court had suggested that two teams at the centre of the allegations - the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals – should be barred from the competition when it next gets underway later this spring. But in its ruling on Friday, the court said the teams should be allowed to contest after all.
“This judgment is for cricket lovers, we do not want to suspend any team or player before the IPL,” said one of the judges, AK Patnaik.
The Twenty20-style tournament involving players from across the cricketing world, was started in 2008 to much fanfare and hype. It has attracted industrialists and movie stars, as well as stars such as Kevin Pietersen, lured by the huge support and the handsome payments. The competition is loud, boisterous and has made lots of money.
Yet the competition has been repeatedly linked to allegations of corruption. Lalit Modi, the official involved in establishing the tournament was later convicted of misconduct and suffered a lifetime ban from the BCCI. A government minister, Shashi Tharoor, was forced to resign after he was accused of securing a special deal for a team owned by his then girlfriend. He denied the claim.
The latest controversy dates from last year when Indian police last year arrested several players, including fast bowler Shantakumaran Sreesanth, then playing for the Rajasthan Royals team, for alleged spot fixing.
According to the AFP news agency, the court’s panel of judges is looking at a report it commissioned into wrongdoing into the alleged spot-fixing. The report, released in February, suggested that Mr Srinivasan’s son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan - who was the senior official with the Chennai Super Kings team - could be guilty of illegal betting on IPL games. Mr Meiyappan spent two weeks in jail before being given bail.
The Super Kings are owned by India Cements, whose managing director is Mr Srinivasan. The team is captained by India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
This year’s IPL begins in Abu Dhabi on April 16, with the opening round of matches having been relocated to the United Arab Emirates because India is holding a general election. In 2009, the tournament was held in South Africa for the same reason.
Reports suggested that the decision to allow the two teams to compete will be a huge relief for the team’s owners. Indian media suggested that the total loss resulting from the teams' suspension could have been as much as 1.5 billion dollars.
The court said that Mr Gavaskar, 64, the first player to score 10,000 Test runs, would have to end his work as a cricket commentator while he held the new position. There was no immediate comment form the former player thought he had previous indicated he would do that the court told him.